Israeli Hacker Nabbed at Heathrow Over Alleged Hack Job for US PR Firm

Estimated read time 3 min read

An Israeli private investigator wanted by American authorities was dramatically arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport last week as he tried to board a flight to Israel. Amit Forlit is accused of orchestrating an audacious hacking scheme on behalf of an unnamed American public relations firm based in Washington D.C.

The allegations were laid out in court on Thursday as U.S. prosecutors attempted to extradite Forlit to face charges of computer hacking, wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. However, the extradition hit a legal snag when a judge ruled Forlit had not been brought before the court quickly enough after being arrested at Heathrow.

Under British extradition law, suspects must be produced before a judge “as soon as practicable” after being apprehended. The judge said this requirement was not met in Forlit’s case, leaving him with no choice but to order the Israeli man’s discharge, at least for now.

During the hearing, U.S. lawyer Amy Labram accused Forlit of engaging in a “hack for hire scheme” in which one of his companies allegedly received over $20 million from the Washington PR firm. She said the money was payment to gather intelligence relating to the Argentine debt crisis through hacking and other illicit means.

This is not the first time Forlit, a private investigator based in Israel, has been accused of questionable hacking activities. In a separate U.S. case, an aviation executive named Farhad Azima is suing Forlit and others, alleging they hacked into his email account and stole sensitive information which was then used against Azima in a 2020 civil case in London.

Forlit has acknowledged obtaining Azima’s emails but insists he did not hack them, rather stumbled across the messages innocently “on the web.” He has denied any wrongdoing.

For the moment, Forlit is a free man after the extradition hiccup. However, U.S. authorities seem determined to put him on trial over the “hack for hire” allegations involving the Washington PR firm’s work related to the Argentine debt crisis. The drama could accelerate if prosecutors restart the extradition process.

Lawyers for Forlit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the hacking investigation, did not immediately respond to requests for comment following his arrest at Heathrow Airport. The identity of the PR firm at the center of the alleged hacking scheme also remains unknown publicly.

The case has renewed scrutiny on the ethics and tactics sometimes employed by private investigators and public relations companies working behind the scenes on behalf of clients engaged in high-stakes legal battles, financial negotiations and other matters. Hacking email accounts could enable critical intelligence gathering, but clearly carries immense legal risks if true.

Mohamed Nabil Ali

A Trailblazing IT Expert, Technology Geek, and Bughunter.
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